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Friday, December 15, 2006
Mixed Martial Arts--- UFC Buys Select Fighter Contracts as WFA Ceases Operations
by Ivan Trembow and Ken Pishna
Originally Published on MMAWeekly
Zuffa announced on Monday that it has purchased what is left of the World Fighting Alliance, most significantly "select fighter contracts" and all of the WFA's trademarks and intellectual properties.
This news comes on the heels of Zuffa buying World Extreme Cagefighting, and reportedly also being in negotiations to buy Pride Fighting Championships from Dream Stage Entertainment.
While the WEC will continue to operate as a separate promotion under Zuffa's ownership, the WFA has ceased all operations and will be folded into the UFC.
In news that broke on MMAWeekly Radio last week, WFA President and CEO Jeremy Lappen is suing the owners of the WFA for breach of contract, alleging that the WFA's owners have not paid him or many of the company's other employees for quite some time.
MMAWeekly has learned that in the days since that story broke, Lappen reached a settlement with the WFA's owners. According to Lappen, “We have reached a settlement, but I cannot comment on the situation.”
Prior to the Zuffa purchase, many of the WFA's employees had already left the company and the WFA's debt was piling up, with creditors seeking payments and with some vendors from the July 22nd show still waiting for their funds to be delivered.
It is not known if any of the WFA's employees creditors who are owed money will now get paid the amounts due. Given the wording in Zuffa's press release that it has "acquired selected assets" of the WFA, it's possible that the UFC just bought the specific fighter contracts that it wanted and the WFA's trademarks, without also acquiring the company's debts.
At the time of publication, it was unclear as to whether or not all of the fighters under contract with the WFA were assignable (able to be bought by or sold to another organization). It is believed that most were; therefore, the UFC would have been able to negotiate with the WFA for the fighters that interested them and pick up their current WFA contracts.
For any WFA fighters who were no longer under binding contract to the WFA, or whose contracts the UFC specifically chose not to buy out, those fighters are now free agents who can negotiate with the UFC or any other MMA promotion.
Sources close to the situation told MMAWeekly.com that Quinton Jackson and Heath Herring are two of the fighters that are part of the deal and will soon be fighting in the UFC. Comments from UFC President and Zuffa co-owner Dana White in Zuffa's press release would seem to support that information: “Zuffa is committed to giving our fans the best fights between the best fighters in the world. This acquisition helps us continue fulfilling that goal… bringing the WFA fighters into the Zuffa family is the best thing that could happen for the fighters – and for the fans.”
A rematch between Jackson and UFC Light Heavyweight Champion Chuck Liddell has been a highly anticipated request by fans for some time, and Herring would help bolster a lacking UFC heavyweight division. Jackson was expected to be on his way to the UFC even before the UFC-WFA buy-out took place.
There could be legal complications if the UFC acquired the WFA contracts of Matt Lindland and Bas Rutten, who are also coaches in the IFL. While the WFA deals of Lindland and Rutten both allowed them to also fight and coach in the IFL, the UFC is likely not going to want to use fighters who are also coaches in the IFL, a company with which the UFC has exchanged lawsuits in the past, although those suits have since been settled.